Queen’s College Choir on their recordings for
Guild are making themselves a force to be reckoned with. John
Quinn warmly recommended their Eastertide CD (Christ Rising,
GMCD7222 – see review),
Michael Cookson was most impressed with their recording of music
for Ascensiontide, Pentecost and Trinity (Come, Holy Spirit,
GMCD7276 – see review)
and Glyn Pursglove thought their most recent recording, Paradisi
Portas, highly competent (GMCD7296 – see review).
Like Paradisi Portas, the new CD presents Iberian music
from the 17th-century, mostly by Portuguese composers,
though some of these worked in Southern Spain, chiefly in Granada.
Wisely, Queen’s have decided on both occasions
not to go head to head with other performers. On the earlier
CD the main work was Duarte Lobo’s Missa Paradisi Portas.
The centre piece of this new recording is also a mass, Missa
de beata virgine Maria, by Duarte Lôbo (not to be confused
with Alonso Lobo); neither work, to the best of my knowledge,
has otherwise been recorded, though there are several good versions
of his 6- and 8-part Requiems. Neglect is never sufficient evidence
to judge any music; readers must be tired by now of my referring
to neglected masterpieces. The Lôbo mass here may not quite
be that, but it is still a very fine work and well worth performing
– and hearing.
Unlike their neighbours at New College and Christ
Church, who still employ boy trebles, Queen’s now have a mixed
choir. I yield to no-one in my love of the traditional treble
sound and I have been very pleased recently to remind myself
what a wonderful sound the New College and Christ Church choristers
are still capable of producing. I’m planning to feature in my
February, 2009, Download Roundup a number of recent recordings
by New College Choir under the direction of Edward Higginbottom
which can be thoroughly recommended:
Nicholas Ludford (c.1485-1587):
Missa Benedicta and Votive Antiphons, K617 (K617206)
– the pick of the bunch.
William Byrd (1543-1623)
Cantiones Sacræ (1575) CRD (CRD3492)
William Byrd Cantiones
Sacræ (1589) (CRD3420)
Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
The Third Service, Anthems and Voluntaries, (CRD3467)
Henry Purcell (1659-95)
The ‘Bell’ Anthem and other Verse Anthems (CRD3504) – a splendid
choice for anyone not wishing to run to the complete New College/King’s
Consort set on Hyperion.
William Croft (1678-1727)
Select Anthems (CRD3491)
All these and many other recommendable K617 and
CRD recordings are available as downloads from eMusic.
Nevertheless, like my colleagues in their response
to earlier CDs, I was more than satisfied with the singing of
Queen’s mixed choir. Alongside the New College recordings of
the Byrd Cantiones Sacræ mentioned above, I also recommend
a CD of music from his 1589 and 1591 collections, performed
by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge under Richard Marlow
(Chandos CHAN0733). Like Queen’s, Trinity has had a mixed choir
for some time and both manage more than to hold up their heads
against the more traditional competition. The essence of polyphony
is that it should sound uplifting and the performances from
both mixed choirs achieve that in large measure.
That they do so is due in no small measure to
the combination of scholarship and musicianship of their respective
musical directors. The full and informative notes by Owen Rees
in the booklet of the new CD, together with the fact that he
has edited most of the music would be more than enough to establish
his scholarship – check the notes out for yourself on the Guild
website – while the
performances are more than sufficient to demonstrate his ability
to present the wonderful polyphonic music of this period for
a modern audience.
Nor must I forget the important contributions
of Charlotte Philips, former Senior Organ Scholar, who contributes
the organ solos and Tom Wilkinson and Benedict Lewis-Smith,
The shorter works are all well worth hearing;
the Coelho Nunc Dimittis (track 17) especially attracted
my attention, with high parts almost to rival the Allegri Miserere,
and it is splendidly sung here. The CD overall may be recommended
with the same enthusiasm that my colleagues have shown for the
I would, however, recommend another recording,
by the William Byrd Choir, of Duarte Lôbo and Filipe de Magalhães
in preference, since it contains Lôbo’s better-known 8-part
Requiem and comes at budget price (Masterpieces of
Portuguese Polyphony, Hyperion Helios CDH55138 – see review)
but that recording will almost certainly whet your appetite
for more, and the new recording will then become an almost mandatory
There is also an excellent version of Lôbo’s
6-part Requiem sung by the Tallis Scholars on Gimell
CDGIM205, a 2-for-1 set with the Cardoso and Victoria Requiems.
Please note that this is Lôbo’s 6-part
Requiem, not the 8-part as I erroneously stated in my
review of the Helios CD – look out for further details in my
February, 2009, Download Roundup. I also intend to atone for
my error by posting a full review of CDGIM205 and CDGIM028 (an
alternative coupling of the 6-part Lôbo Requiem with
his Missa Vox clamantis).
The recording is very good and the presentation,
as I have indicated, scholarly and informative yet readable.
The cover illustration of the Annunciation and Visitation from
the windows in the college chapel is not quite as eye-catching
as those of earlier volumes, though attractive enough. Were
it not for the very strong competition, I should be favouring
this new recording with even greater enthusiasm.